By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University formally dedicated its Virginia Beach Monarch Memorial on Tuesday, the third anniversary of the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in which 12 people were killed - including six who graduated from or attended the University.

"Today, we stand with the families of the victims," said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. "We stand as colleagues, as friends and as neighbors. We continue to mourn each of them and will keep their memories alive with the memorial where we stand today. It is our hope that this memorial will bring hope, compassion, courage and love by illuminating a light over the darkest day in the history of Virginia Beach."

Ground was broken for the memorial in October 2019, approximately five months after the tragedy, and a dedication was planned for the spring of 2020. But the ceremony was delayed due to COVID restrictions.

Approximately 70 family members and guests attended the ceremony.

The memorial, which is located in Bugg Plaza, between the Batten Arts and Letters Building and the Perry Libraries, uses as the central image the sun in the Virginia Beach seal, with 12 rays radiating outward to represent the number of people killed in Building Two.

The sun is represented by a fountain encircled by a border made of ODU bricks. The spokes extending from the center have different lengths, corresponding to the number of years each person worked for the city. Six of the rays are blue, representing Old Dominion alumni or former students who were killed. The others are gold. At the end of each ray is a concrete marker with the person's name. For Monarchs, the marker includes their degree year or years at ODU and an image of a crown. For others, it includes a picture of a lotus, the official flower of Virginia Beach.

"We cherish the sentiment that went into the intricate design of this magnificent memorial," Virginia Beach Mayor Robert M. Dyer said. "... I thank you for being a valuable source of undeniable strength and during a time of unspeakable loss."

The Alumni Association played a key role in developing and funding the memorial.

"As an ODU graduate, I am touched by the compassion and resiliency of this community," said André Wells, alumni association president.

Joy Jefferson, associate vice president for alumni relations, added that "from this tragedy, beautiful legacies in the form of scholarships have been established at Old Dominion University by the two families to remember and honor Chris Rapp and Richard Nettleton" in the Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

President Hemphill and Dyer placed a wreath at the memorial as bagpipers performed "Amazing Grace" and Wells read the names of the 12 victims - Laquita C. Brown, Ryan Keith Cox, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Joshua O. Hardy, Michelle "Missy" Langer, Katherine A. Lusich-Nixon, Herbert "Bert" Snelling, Robert "Bobby" Williams, Nettleton and Rapp.

"Our arms can no longer hold them," Dyer said, "but our hearts won't ever let them go."

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